Say McNamara Park problems highlight inattention
Residents also calling for supermarket nearby
Districts supposed to bring representation in coming years
Merced resident and south Merced advocate Tamara Cobb points out what she feels is an inadequate amount of shade Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, while standing under one of the shade structures placed by the city after it cut down many of the trees at McNamara Park. Andrew Kuhn -akuhn@Mercedsunstar.com
A south Merced town hall meeting picked at old wounds for residents south of Highway 99, they said Wednesday, highlighting the feeling that the oldest neighborhood in town gets the least attention.
McNamara Park on Canal Street has been a familiar topic at the town hall meeting held in south Merced every year since 2012. Tamara Cobb, a longtime resident, is often at the forefront of the complaint that the park is disregarded by Merced City Council members, who all live north of Bear Creek.
“We are tired in this community of continuously going back and asking for our share,” she said. “Why isn’t the City Council recognizing these are taxpayers too?”
Their complaints reflect a sense often voiced by neighborhood residents, many of whom were behind the push to divide the city into election districts.
When voters go to the polls in November, it will be the first time some south Merced residents will be able to choose a representative for the new District 1 rather than vote for City Council members at large. Candidates have until this summer to declare they are running. City officials say the District 1 seat has drawn a few queries from potential candidates, but no one has filed paperwork, according the City Clerk’s Office.
South Merced is divided into two electoral districts. District 1, which includes areas east of Highway 59 and south of Highway 140, will be up for a vote this year. Other parts of south Merced lie in District 2, whose representative will be chosen by voters in 2018.
WE ARE TIRED IN THIS COMMUNITY OF CONTINUOUSLY GOING BACK AND ASKING FOR OUR SHARE. WHY ISN’T THE CITY COUNCIL RECOGNIZING THESE ARE TAXPAYERS TOO?
Tamara Cobb, a longtime south Merced resident
McNamara Park, which lies in District 2, is just one example of a south Merced area in need of attention, according to Cobb. Most of the park’s trees were removed in recent years, with city staffers saying some were dying and others obstructed a surveillance camera.
“When they cut the trees, they left us with a field,” Cobb said.
After complaints last year, the city installed two shade structures in the park to try to make up for the bare space. Cobb said the structures amount to a folded king-size bed sheet that gives a laughable amount of shade.
Treating McNamara like an afterthought is a prime example of the lack of attention given to south Merced, residents said. They contested that parks in north Merced are not neglected.
McNamara Park is seen by locals as a popular gathering spot that gets use during Cesar Chavez Day, Easter and Juneteenth, among other gatherings.
Another resident, Kirk Wright, pointed to the play structure, which gets no shade and soaks in the sun’s rays.
“You don’t want your kids playing on that,” he said. “It’s metal.”
IT CONCERNS ME THAT WE HAVE TO DRIVE MILES AWAY FOR FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES.
Isabel Sanchez, a south Merced resident
South Merced also long has been without a grocery store, and city leaders say they’ve struggled to garner interest from developers. Isabel Sanchez, who spoke during the most recent south Merced town hall meeting, said residents are still asking for a supermarket.
“It concerns me that we have to drive miles away for fresh fruit and vegetables,” she said.
The city is moving to six districts for local elections, an effort to give better representation to all corners of the city. Two of the districts will be up for election, though only the one encompassing downtown has so far drawn any candidates.
Residents said they have high hopes for an elected official living in their neighborhood, but they’re not going to wait until then for results.
“We’re not asking for anything new,” Cobb said. “Been asking for it for years and years.”